“And it is impossible to please God without faith.” Hebrews 11:6
When we consider the things that bring pleasure to God, it seems that there may not be anything more important than our faith in Him and His promises. So much so, that Peter tells us how God is even prepared to allow us to endure great trials to prove that our faith is genuine, just as fire tests and purifies gold. He continues that our faith is even more precious than gold because when our faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring us much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7
Interestingly, it is not possible to develop this quality called faith by studying a course about it in some formal setting. Rather, God has His own School of Faith planned out for each of us as we go through life, even if we may not always be aware of it. In fact, you may be reading this article right now and be enduring some trial that is testing the strength of your faith. And you have an audience of one watching.
Our faith is never meant to be static. It rather is like a muscle that, when exercised, grows and is noticed by God and the observant Christian. When it is not exercised, it wastes away. Paul couldn’t help but notice the growth in faith that was being displayed by the Christians in Thessalonica. “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more….”
2 Thessalonians 1:3 To the observant eye, a person’s faith level, or that of a group of Christians, can be quite conspicuous.
What a wonderful encouragement for the Thessalonians. Their faith, that is pleasing to God, and that will bring glory and honor to Jesus, was growing more and more. It is worth asking ourselves, “Is our growth in faith noticeable to others right now? And how would people know?
Which leads me to some words I recently read in the devotional, Streams in The Desert. The writer spoke of these three levels of faith that can define us.
The first level of faith I decided to call BECAUSE OF faith.
At this level we take steps of faith because the circumstances are favorable and we feel encouraged to step out. We see this in the life of Gideon where he was only willing to trust God because the fleece that he laid out was wet. He requested of God, “If now I have found favour in your eyes, give me a sign that is really You talking to me.” Judges 6:17 This may be genuine faith but it is faith in its infancy.
The second level of faith is what I call the ABSENCE OF faith.
This is the level of faith in God and His word that we exercise when we experience an absence of circumstances or feelings. They are neither favourable nor unfavourable. These are times where we choose to step out in faith calmly trusting in God and His word because we have come to believe that He is faithful and trustworthy. For Level 2 Faith, I think of a situation like Peter and John meeting a man crippled from birth as they went to the temple one afternoon. The man asked Peter and John for money, but they gave him something better and quite unexpected. “Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.” Acts 3:6-8
In the absence of any feelings or circumstances, either positive or negative, Peter took a step of faith and with authority in the name of Jesus, he healed this man.
There is a third level of faith that God wants to develop in those who have been tested and approved to be entrusted with assignments of great consequences and I call this
IN SPITE OF faith.
“The third level transcends the other two, for it is faith that believes God and His word when circumstances, emotions, appearances, people, and human reason all seem to urge something to the contrary.”
Streams in The Desert This is the faith that believes God and His promises in spite of circumstances and feelings.
The following are some of the great people who graduated to Level 3 Faith.
After the loss of everything he held worthwhile, Job still declared, ”Though He (God) slay me, yet I will trust Him.” Job 13:15 Even Job’s wife tried to persuade him to turn from God when she said, “Curse God and die”. But Job replied; “Shall we accept good from God, and not accept trouble.” Job2:10
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” Romans 4:18-21
“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” Hebrews 11:11
“By faith, when he had grown up, he refused to be known as the son of Pharoah’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the children of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.”
“We do not want you to be uninformed brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had experienced the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again.”
2 Corinthians 1:8-19
“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11
PEOPLE OF LEVEL 3 FAITH :-
- believe God in spite of their circumstances and their feelings
- “are sure of what they hope for and certain of what they do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
“Faith is believing what we do not see, and the reward for this kind of faith is to see what we do not believe.” Saint Augustine
- have graduated in God’s School of Faith after trusting God through a season of circumstances where they have been required to walk by faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
- are chosen by God to be entrusted with extraordinary tasks that carry unusual responsibilities and consequences.
- hold on to God’s perspective in seemingly impossible situations. Joseph could say to his brothers after a series of painful experiences, “Am I not in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God meant it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 These are words of perspective that only come by living in intimacy with God.
- will be tested by Satan when he senses an opportune moment. Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”
- recognise that there is a purpose and value in enduring times of testing. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4
The great preacher of another era, Charles Spurgeon said, “Our faith is the centre of the target God aims at when He tests us and if any gift escapes untested, it will certainly not be our faith: There is nothing that pierces faith to its very marrow – to find whether or not it is the faith of those who are immortal – like shooting the arrow of the feeling of being deserted.”
Few people graduate to Level 3 Faith – IN SPITE OF faith. How sad it is when God is looking for such a person to graduate to this level and cannot find someone who can qualify by passing the tests along the way. It would seem that this was the case where we read of the Lord’s words, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” Ezekial 22:30
But to those who do pass the tests along the way and graduate to Level 3 Faith, God has special assignments for them that may even change the history of a nation. But there is always a great price to pay. Take time to read the honor role of faith in Hebrews 11 and pray to God that you are willing to endure whatever it takes to become a Level 3 Faith person.
Perhaps there is no greater Level 3 Faith statement than that which comes from the prophet Habakkuk in his book which start with the words: “How long Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen, or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ But you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” Habakkuk 1:2-3 Then God speaks to Habakkuk and gives him perspective which is such an important ingredient in the acquiring of Level 3 Faith. That is why Habakkuk can conclude his words to declare that God is still in control of the world despite the apparent triumph of evil. How we need another Habakkuk today.
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails,
and the field produces no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be joyful in God my saviour.
The sovereign Lord is my strength,
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights.” (3:17-10)